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  • Writer's pictureEmily Marschke

Empowering Women in Engineering while Balancing Opportunities

In the past decade, there has been a noticeable increase in the enrolment of women in engineering programs - a testament to the concerted efforts of both industry and tertiary institutions. As someone who has navigated through the engineering landscape over the years, it's truly inspiring to witness the substantial increase in female representation. Gone are the days where female engineering students were lost in the crowd of men (representing less than 5%) or feeling the desire to hide, as I often found myself doing (I really didn’t want to be singled out). Women these days are not just challenging but actively shattering gender stereotypes, with some disciplines even witnessing a female majority (kudos to the chemical engineering students at UQ!). 

As a seasoned Engineer, the work that has been put into advancing women in the field is truly remarkable, but for students in the thick of it, it's important to acknowledge that with increased opportunities comes the challenge of maintaining balance. Throughout your academic journey, you'll encounter numerous opportunities, each calling for your attention. However, spreading yourself too thin by dabbling in a multitude of activities can leave you feeling drained and may compromise the quality of your contributions. Remember, many of these opportunities could potentially lead to future employment in the industry, so it's crucial to give your best while recognising your limitations. Quality over quantity should be your guiding principle. 

Your degree like your career is a marathon; if you over-commit you will find that you end up having that head down mentality and you won’t see the unique opportunities that are right for you.  Pace yourself, pursue your passions, and take a holistic, degree-long approach. Your journey in engineering isn't solely about reaching the destination—it's about the experiences, lessons learned, the boundless possibilities that lie ahead and most importantly the people you meet along the way.  

As a young engineer, it's crucial to start exploring opportunities early in your academic journey. Use your first few years to engage in extracurricular activities that spark your interest. These experiences can be as diverse as you like, they will help you identify your areas of passion and align them with your career goals, as well as meet people in industry. By actively participating in relevant activities, you gain practical skills and industry insights that can shape your future path. If you haven't started this yet, don't worry. Now is the time to reflect on your interests and aspirations and be selective in choosing opportunities that align with your goals. Remember, it's never too late to focus your efforts and pave the way.    

Working smart, not just hard, is key. Organisational skills, time management, and seeking support when needed are vital components of success in engineering. Leveraging resources such as academic advisors, peer support groups, and counselling services can help navigate challenges and maintain focus. Embrace the journey and let your passion for engineering propel you towards a future filled with endless opportunities.  And most importantly value your peers as they will be your colleges throughout your career, you just never know when and where they will pop up in your journey. 

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